It is widely believed that the Gopalas and Mahishapalas were the earliest rulers with their capital at Matatirtha, the south-west corner of the Kathmandu Valley. In the 7th or 8th Century B.C, the Kirants are said to have ruled the Valley. The famous Kirat King Yalamber is even mentioned in the Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’. Around 300 A.D. the Lichhavis arrived here from northern India and overthrew the Kirantis. One of the legacies of the Lichhavis rile is the famous Changu Narayan Temple near Bhaktapur, now a UNESCO World Heritage Sit. The temple dates back to the 5th Century. In the early 7th Century, Amshuvarma then took over the throne from his father-in-law who was a Lichhavi. He married off his daughter Bhrikuti to the famous Tibetan King Tsong Tsen Gampo and hence established good relations with Tibet. The Lichhavis are credited with bringing art and architecture to the Valley but the golden age of creativity arrived in 1200 A.D with the Mallas.
During their 550 year rule, the Mallas built numerous temples, monuments and great architecture with picturesque squares. It was also during the Malla rule that the society and the cities became well organized and the religious festivals were introduced. They also encouraged the literature, music and art in the Valley. After the death of Yaksha Malla, the valley was then divided into three kingdoms: Kathmandu (Kantipur), Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon) and Patan (Lalitpur). Around this time, the Nepal as we know of today was divided into about 46 independent and different states. One amongst these was the Kingdom of Gorkha with a Shah ruler of the King.
An ambitious Gorkha King named Prithvi Narayan Shah then started on a journey of conquering the scattered states which led to the defeat of all the Kingdoms in the Valley including Kirtipur by 1769 AD. Instead of annexing the newly conquered states to his Kingdom of Gorkha, King Prithvi Narayan decided to move his capital to Kathmandu Valley, establishing the Shah dynasty which ruled unified Nepal from 1769 to 2008, for 240 years.
The history of the Gorkha state, however, goes back to 1559 AD when Dravya Shah established a Kingdom in an area primarily inhabited by Magars. During the 17th and early 18thcenturies, Gorkha Kingdom continued a slow and gradual expansion, conquering other states and forging alliances with others. Prithvi Narayan Shah dedicated himself at an early age to the conquest of the Kathmandu Valley. Recognizing the threat from the British rule in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained an isolated land.
During the mid-19th Century, Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal’s prime minister wresting absolute power over himself, relegating the Shah Kings to mere figureheads. He started a hereditary reign of the Rana Prime Ministers that lasted for 104 years. The Ranas were overthrown in a democratic movement of the early 1950s with support from then King Tribhuvan. Soon after the Ranas were overthrown, King Tribhuvan was reinstated as the Head of the State. In early 1959, Tribhuvan’s son King Mahendra issued a new constitution, and the first democratic elections for a national assembly were held. The Nepali Congress Party was victorious and their leader, Bishweshwar Prasad (BP) Koirala formed a government and served as prime minister. But by 1960, King Mahendra had changed his mind and dissolved the Parliament, dismissing the first democratically elected government.
After many years of struggle during the Panchyat Rule when the monarchy ruled directly, the political parties finally mustered enough courage to start a People’s Movement in 1990. Paving way for democracy, the then-King Birendra accepted constitutional reforms and established a multiparty parliament with King as the Head of State and an executive Prime Minister. In May 1991, Nepal held its first parliamentary elections. In February 1996, the Maoist party declared People’s War against monarchy and the state.
Then on 1st June 2001, a horrific tragedy occurred at the Royal Palace when the entire royal family including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya were murdered in mysterious circumstances. With only King Birendra’s brother, Gyanendra and his family surviving, he was crowned the next King. King Gyanendra abided by the elected government for some time and then dismissed the elected Parliament, just like his father, to wield absolute power. In April 2006, another People’s Movement was launched jointly by the political parties which forced King Gyanendra to relinquish his power and reinstate the Parliament which he earlier suspended. On November 21, 2006, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), committing to democracy and peace for the progress of the country and people. A Constituent Assembly election was held on April 10, 2008. On May 28, 2008, the newly elected Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic, abolishing the 240 year-old monarchy.